Ohio State made an unmistakable statement to the college football world Friday night, delivering an emphatic 24-7 win over Southern California in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The No. 5 Buckeyes, snubbed by the College Football Playoff selection committee, took out their frustration on the No. 8 Trojans with two touchdowns from J.T. Barrett and four takeaways by their swarming defense.
What it means
The Big Ten champions toppled the Pac-12 champions as the Buckeyes (12-2) avoided what would have been the first three-loss season of the Urban Meyer era.
3 things we learned
1. J.T. Barrett is a force of nature
The senior Buckeyes quarterback goes out a winner, improving to 38-6 as a starter. He plunged in from 1 yard out for the first touchdown of the game and scored on a 28-yard burst midway through the second quarter to put Ohio State ahead 24-0. He also converted a fourth-and-1 run late in the first quarter, extending a drive that led to a field goal.
2. USC’s offense couldn’t handle Ohio State’s defense
Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold took some shots against the Buckeyes, and he connected on a few explosive plays. But USC’s only score came on a 15-yard drive — if you can call it a drive — after the Buckeyes lost a fumble while fielding a punt.
The Trojans generated 413 yards of total offense, but the Buckeyes defense consistently held firm whenever USC threatened to score. Ohio State sacked Darnold eight times.
3. The past is mere prologue
In a matchup of two college football bluebloods, Ohio State shook a monkey off its back in a historical sense. USC had won its previous seven meetings against the Buckeyes, a streak that dated to the 1975 Rose Bowl. For those who keep track of such things, the Trojans still lead the all-time series 13-10-1.
Player of the game
Joe Thomas Barrett IV — as if there was any doubt. Barrett completed 11 of 17 passes for 114 yards without a touchdown or interception. But he was brilliant with his feet, repeatedly baffling the Trojans and rushing for a game-high 66 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Play of the game
Buckeyes safety Damon Webb read Darnold’s eyes perfectly on an interception early in the second quarter. He returned the pick for a 23-yard touchdown, putting Ohio State firmly in control with a 17-0 lead.
The Buckeyes look to complete their 2018 recruiting class on National Signing Day, Feb. 7. The Ohio State spring game is April 14.
The 2018 season opener is Sept. 1 against Oregon State at Ohio Stadium.